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Sonoma State University’s new President Judy K. Sakaki charted a fresh course of leadership Monday, pledging collaboration and teamwork during her first formal address before students and faculty.

SSU’s annual convocation is usually held in the smaller Evert B. Person Theater. But excitement for Sakaki, the nation’s first Japanese-American woman to head a four-year college, was so high the event was moved to the larger Weill Hall, the legacy of her predecessor Ruben Armiñana. Nearly half the 1,400 seats were filled.

The crowd included a large contingent of students, some of whom said they had never attended a convocation and some of whom expressed high hopes for Sakaki, who has pledged a more student-focused administration.

“We will be a collaborative, team-oriented university,” Sakaki told the crowd. “We will all be focused on our students’ success and academic excellence. We are fostering and modeling a respectful community on campus, respectful and celebratory of differences, a community that is fair and open and transparent with integrity.”

The new campus chief has already become a familiar figure on campus, strolling the grounds and stopping to meet and greet students and pose for their selfies. On Sunday, she attended the Big Nite Carnival and mingled with the families of 3,000 students moving into campus housing. And at a pre-convocation reception, she worked the room, walking up to people with a broad smile and extending her hand.

“It’s nice to see Dr. Sakaki going out and doing things for students. I’m super pumped,” said Emily Milesi, a 20-year-old pre-med student.

Faculty Senate Chair Ben Ford, a professor of mathematics, said this was the largest turnout he had seen for a convocation in his 18 years at SSU.

The 62-year-old Sakaki is herself a product of the California State University system, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University East Bay, as well as a doctorate in education from UC Berkeley. She generated a foot-stomping, standing ovation with whoops and whistles before she even started to speak.

“I want to listen and learn and benefit from your thoughts and experiences. Leadership for me is a collaborative process,” she told the gathering. Then she laid out an agenda that emphasized inclusion and outreach throughout the campus and in the community, including a focus on Latino students, who represent more than 53 percent of all K-12 students in California but are underrepresented on college campuses.

“There are children of farmworkers in our region who could benefit from continuing their education at Sonoma State. We need to think about helping a broader range of students to consider coming to our campus,” said Sakaki, who represents the first generation in her family to attend college.

She also emphasized the power of mentoring.

“We are a family of about 1,500 faculty and staff,” she said. “If each one of us committed to mentor, to look out for, to take a special interest in just one prospective or current student, what a difference we could make.”

Later in the program, Student Body President Emily Hinton invited more than 150 students from the audience to join her on stage, to support her call for more student voices in campus decision-making positions. Sakaki joined them, accepting a gift bag and embracing some of the students.

The new president introduced her interim team, which includes Dr. Michael Young, interim vice president for student affairs. A former vice chancellor at UC Santa Barbara, he has advocated for student’s mental health needs. Sakaki announced that he will bring back “a more robust, coordinated student- centered Division of Student Affairs,” drawing applause.

That mission has been at the heart of her work, most recently while serving as the vice president for student affairs in the office of the president of the University of California.

Sakaki signaled a commitment to extending her reach to support staff and the broader community. Her days have been filled with faculty and student group meetings and with visits to every department.

Seven weeks on the job, she said her vision is still “in process.”

“I believe that we are all in the process of always getting better,” Sakaki said. “We’re never quite there, and I am listening and learning every single day.”

During the convocation, a number of faculty and staff members expressed optimism for the new administration after years of tension with Armiñana, who retired in June after 24 years at SSU. Sakaki said she wants to increase the number of full-time tenure track faculty after years of diminishing staff and add more part-time and adjunct faculty. She also hinted at changes in the budget, which she called “not as healthy financially as I was hoping it would be.” She said over the next few weeks she and her team will “need to make some decisions with a focus on the education mission of the university.”

In 2007, the Academic Senate passed a vote of no confidence in Armiñana, driven in part by what they felt was an administration that had strayed from the academic mission of student learning and mentoring, and had siphoned resources from the classroom and students to support the $145 million Green Music Center.

Andre Bailey, a longtime adviser in the Educational Opportunity Program for disadvantaged students, said after the speech he felt a “ray of hope” that Sakaki will “return the focus to educating students.”

“It reminds me of when President Obama was elected. All the possibilities have one tingling,” said a beaming Deborah Roberts, interim associate vice president for academic affairs and a professor of nursing. “Ruben had a wonderful legacy. But the air now is electric at Sonoma State with possibility. With new leadership comes new decisions and new visions.”